Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CCC attracts certified teachers and eager volunteers

Speaking as their new marketing director, Ben Green’s enthusiasm for the early education center is infectious.

“I love the Community Children’s Center,” said Green on his cell phone while heading for New Jersey to enjoy the Labor Day weekend with his family. “It’s my favorite place. It’s like a second home.”

Green, who has been involved with CCC almost his entire life, is particularly impressed with the teaching staff. “We have some new teachers and they’re awesome! Like how they treat the kids like adults. They don’t talk to the kids like they’re babies. And [preschool teacher] Miss Forest — she has the IQ of a genius. She’s like so cool! She treats the kids like they’re mature, then they actually rise to the challenge and become mature.”

Green is not really the new marketing director for CCC although as soon as he’s old enough to drive a car and vote the board of trustees might consider hiring him for the position. He was first enrolled in CCC’s early learning program when he was two years old and participated in their summer program up until last year. He is now a 7th grader at McKinney Middle School. Mindful of the community service hours needed to fulfill his graduation requirements, when school let out this past June, Green knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“Ben wanted to volunteer last year but he was only 11 and you have to be 12,” explained CCC’s executive director, Marlin Newell. “So he came this year and he did everything. He did filing in the office for me, he worked in a variety of classrooms, he was just everywhere.”

“The teachers are not allowed to leave the classrooms while they have kids so I was the ‘go-fetch-things’ person,” said Green, who is twelve-and-a-half. “I’m not old enough to be in the classroom with the kids by myself.”

In the preschool program where he spent most of his time, Green was sometimes called upon to resolve the children’s fights. “[One of the kids] would take away a toy or pinch somebody,” he explained, “and everybody was screaming and I just would calm them down and resolve the problem by distracting them. They’d quickly respond and totally forget what they were getting into a fight about.” On one occasion, Green used a tape recorder to entertain his charges — recording them singing and then playing the tape back.

His first year as a CCC volunteer was not only fun but personally rewarding. “It definitely taught me a little more about taking responsibility for myself and being mature,” said Green. “Working with children, you feel like you have to step up, like this is somebody else’s child, this is somebody who’s going to grow up and do some great things. You have to feel like you’re protecting them from harm.”

CCC staff works hard to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment with enriching activities for all the children. “We have children who come in at 18 months and we address all the developmental domains for them,” said Newell, stressing that her teachers facilitate daily, age-appropriate activities that build cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills for all the children from the very beginning.

In 2006, CCC in collaboration with the Greene County Education Center, received a three-year Early Learning Initiative (ELI) grant through the Ohio Department of Education. The grant specifically focuses on preparing preschool children for kindergarten. The ELI program is income-based and provides free preschool education and extended care for children age three until kindergarten. In order to be eligible for the grant, fifty percent of the teachers must have at least an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

“At this point in time,” said Newell, “all of my teachers, with the exception of my school-age teacher, have a minimum of an associate’s degree to a master’s in early education. We’re really trying to change our image from a daycare center — where people think they just drop their kids off and the teachers sit around and watch the children play—to an early learning center.” CCC teachers have the training and the education “and we’re providing more training to them all the time,” she said.

In addition to Green, two other McKinney students did community service at CCC this summer — Daniel Collett, 14, and Cory Thompson, 13.

“Daniel stopped in last summer and said he’d really like to volunteer with [preschool teacher] Miss Marcia,” said Newell. “He volunteered Monday through Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Then he asked if he could come back this summer and volunteer again.” Thompson came every day as well, getting his community service hours in the toddler classroom. “The kids adored all three of them,” said Newell, “hanging on them, wanting to go everywhere with them.”

“I’ve been very close with these young men and so has Marlin,” said preschool teacher Marcia Greer, who has been with CCC for twelve years. “To see them grow into these fine young men that have donated their time is quite rewarding and heart-warming.”

Green would like to encourage other students — middle school and high school — to consider volunteering at CCC. “We could always use more help and it’s just such a fun experience to be working with all these kids and all the teachers,” he said. He’s quick, however, to warn off potential riff-raff. “You really have to be mature for this job. It’s not for people who are goofing off. ”

Green’s advice for future volunteers is to be patient with themselves and the children. “It’s not exactly easy but you get the hang of it after you’re there for a couple of days,” he said reassuringly. “The first time I was there, the kids would cry if I would say ‘hello’ or something because they don’t adjust very quickly. But by the end of the day, they would start giving me hugs.”

Spaces are still available for the ELI program. For enrollment information, call 767-7236 or visit CCC’s website at www.childrens-center.com.

Originally published in the Yellow Springs News.

Susan Gartner is a freelance writer and photographer for the News.